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Discussion seminar March 17 with Oliver Rackham – Greece and revisionist environmental history
Yesterday’s discussion seminar with Professor Oliver Rackham as well as the assigned article dealt with the ecology and pseudo-ecology of ancient Greece. As a revisionist historical ecologist Rackham presented some of the main theories about the ecology of ancient Greece and discussed how some of these theories might be described as pseudo-ecology. Before further elaborating on this I have to say I think it is fascinating how it is even possible to say anything about what happened so many years ago, the existence of plants, trees and what the climate was like. It is amazing to think about how we can know all this, and also how we in can learn from this history.
In academia as well as in everyday life, people lacking deeper understanding of a particular field or question reduce information into generalizations and simplify the information in order to make sense of it. These generalizations are done all the time, and are often helpful to get an understanding of a certain event, problem or issue. However, when these simplifications become what Rackham calls ‘factoids’ it becomes more problematic. These presumed ‘facts’ are in reality not true at all, and as they grow bigger they can form a pseudo-theory, in the case of Greece a ‘pseudo-ecology’ – “a coherent, logical, reasonable, and widely accepted system of belief having no connection with the real world”. Rackham argues that due to many different reasons, landscape history and maybe particularly the landscape history of Greece, is particularly susceptible to this non-objective, untrue ecologies.
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